An author and law professor speaking in Toronto on Friday says black women should consider marrying outside of their race instead of feeling forced to wed unsuccessful black men.
Ralph Richard Banks, who was interviewed Friday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning hosted by Matt Galloway, is the author of Is Marriage For White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone.
You can listen to the entire interview by clicking here.
Banks is speaking as part of the Legacy Speaker Series at the North York Memorial Community Hall.
The premise of his book is controversial, but Banks, who is black, says it comes in response to a number of socio-economic factors. Namely, the declining marriage rate across the western world and the fact that black women have made strides in terms of earning power and education while black men, statistically, have not.
"Black women have become the most unmarried population in American society because of a whole set of structural factors, that black men are not doing very well is the chief one," said Banks, who teaches at Stanford Law School.
"The problem is not the choices or the preferences of black women, the problem is the pool of men," he said. "Black men have not kept pace with black women."
Banks also said his research challenges a stereotype about black women he says is common: that they are too selective when it comes to picking marriage partners.
"We have black women who are confronted with a very small pool of men," he said. "And then when they want the same things that other women want — to marry someone who is on their level and who’s a peer and who can contribute to the relationship — many people say they are asking too much. I don’t think they’re asking too much. I don’t think we’re offering them enough."
Galloway asked Banks why he suggests black women consider marrying outside their race as a solution to the socio-economic problems black men face. Banks said it comes down to giving black women the freedom to make choices that will make them happy.
He said women need "to choose a partner that’s best for them, irrespective of that person’s race.
"So if the man [they marry] is African American, that’s fine and if he’s not, that should be fine too. Black women should understand that they have those options and we should want them to feel free to exercise those options rather than, as we do, put a lot of pressure on women to maintain the race and support the group, even at the cost of their own happiness."
Banks said the title of his book comes from a young African-American boy in Washington, D.C. When a journalist visited his Grade 6 class, one of the other boys said he wanted to learn about being a good father. The journalist volunteered to bring some married couples to talk about child rearing, but the boy said he wasn’t interested in learning about marriage. Then his friend interjected, "Marriage is for white people."
"I embraced his observation as a title though because it confronted directly the sort of unpleasant reality that adults often seek to avoid," he writes in a promotional website about the book. "I transformed his statement into a question to match the sense of exploration and curiosity that pervades the book. I hope for the book to open a conversation not to end one."